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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 793

Ms PARKE (8:20 PM) —I am concerned about, and opposed to, the member for Kalgoorlie’s motion opposing National Heritage listing for the Kimberley region for a number of reasons. The first reason is that the motion runs the risk of bringing about exactly the outcome that the member seems concerned to avoid. This is because it misrepresents both the assessment process and the effect of National Heritage listing. By making these claims—for example, the suggestion that the heritage listing consideration process will itself seriously damage the future of mining in Australia—the member for Kalgoorlie is himself acting to undermine business and investment confidence.

The member’s motion also suggests that there is no meaningful community consultation being undertaken and this is clearly not the case, as explained comprehensively by my colleague the member for Hasluck. The recent history of this matter is that, in February 2008, the Australian and Western Australian governments reached an agreement that set out to achieve an ecologically sustainable development solution for the Kimberley region. Within the framework of that agreement, the objectives were to concentrate development and associated impacts at the best location and within a defined area; to properly consider the cumulative impacts of what has, to some degree, been the piecemeal development of the north-west of Western Australia; to put in place proper region-wide conservation and heritage protection; and to provide greater certainty to both industry and the community, especially in relation to future LNG related development. Under this agreement, it was accepted that the question of the location of an LNG hub and the question of appropriate and long neglected environmental and heritage conservation planning, both in the context of National Heritage listing and in the context of the North-west Marine Bioregional Plan, would proceed simultaneously and would be resolved in the course of 2010. This includes a strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The starting point for all of this, the first principle in any consideration of the Kimberley, is the recognition that it represents not just a vast area but also an immense part of Australia’s common wealth. That common wealth includes the mineral resources, it includes the precious and, in many cases, fragile environmental values of the region and, of course, it includes our Indigenous heritage. For those reasons, when it comes to determining how we should approach both development and conservation in the Kimberley, consultation must occur with the people who live and work in that region and especially with the Indigenous Australians whose continuous stewardship of the land has lasted tens of thousands of years.

In that context, I refer to the remarks made by Don Henry, CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, in support of the ACF’s productive working relationship with the Kimberley Land Council and the Kimberley traditional owners, where he said:

… we are committed to our collaborative efforts of the last decade to protect the Fitzroy River, progress options for ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate economic development, and to promote National Heritage listing, with Traditional Owner consent, for the Kimberley.

The elements identified by Mr Henry are entirely in keeping with the purpose of the agreement in the framework process settled upon between the Australian and Western Australian governments. What is more, in September last year the Hon. Chris Ellison provided a preliminary report to the Western Australian government as part of the state government’s Kimberley Science and Conservation Strategy, in which it was noted that most submissions referring to the National Heritage listing process have been positive and supportive.

This government knows the importance and the good common sense of taking a holistic approach to land management in development and conservation, in economic opportunity and in the social dividend that must flow from the private development of our common wealth. For those reasons, this government is intent on applying proper assessment processes to guide both the protection and the development of Australia’s natural resources.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has made it clear from the outset that National Heritage listing of the Kimberley, should it occur, would not affect the continuing pastoral use of the area. Nor would National Heritage listing act as a means to directly restrict mining or related development in the Kimberley. National Heritage listing, if it should be applied to the Kimberley, would serve the important function of ensuring that heritage values are given due consideration in the decision making on any proposed development.

Finally, let us remember that our environmental and Indigenous heritage is not without economic value. Notwithstanding the member for Kalgoorlie’s comments on Sumatra and PNG, the lesson of the last 25 years in Australia is that tourism is one of the few sectors to have climbed the export earning ranks, taking its place as a major foreign income earner among resources and primary production. Protecting the environment is therefore both an end in itself and an act of economic responsibility. Many regard the Kimberley as an untapped tourism resource. As the representative of the largest single-member constituency in the world, I am sure that the member for Kalgoorlie can see the good sense in a large-scale and long-term approach to sustainable economic development in the north-west of Western Australia. (Time expired)